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Elia describes the Hillsborough district's response after a child died

Published Apr. 11, 2014

With a lawsuit pending, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia held back from discussing the district's response to the 2012 death of special-needs student Isabella Herrera.

With the case settled, Elia penned this guest column for the Tampa Bay Times.

In it, she describes the steps district officials took to document Isabella's medical emergency on a school bus, provide emotional support at Sessums Elementary School and respond to inquiries from lawyers. She also describes the response on the school bus when Isabella stopped breathing, noting that law enforcement determined no crime was committed. Based on medical testimony, she wrote, "there is no conclusive opinion as to whether different decisions on the bus would have yielded a different outcome." Regardless, she continued, improvements have been made in special-needs student transportation.

As Elia points out in her letter, the number of medically needy students on Hillsborough school buses has risen in recent years from 64 to 489. On April 1, Isabella's mother implored the board to remember her daughter when making decisions on the safe transport of children. "I know that board members have taken those words to heart - and I certainly have," Elia wrote.